Wimax has expanded to the max

18 Aug 2010

Just as the Wimax industry is preparing to jump to Wimax 2 alarm bells are ringing over the future of the wireless broadband technology.

The Taiwanese, who make some 80% of the world’s Wimax devices, believed Intel is giving up on the technology.

Much as Korea tacked CDMA to its mast in the late 1990s, Taiwan has been driving the Wimax bandwagon for the last three years. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has tipped cash into the sector and several vendors have invested in networks around the island to showcase the technology.

However, the Taipei Computer Association – the biggest association of hardware and software vendors – is upset that Intel has closed its Wimax program office.

Intel, which launched the technology nearly a decade ago, said in an emailed statement that because Wimax is a mature technology, with 500 networks in operation in 147 countries, the Taiwan office is no longer needed.

Yet if it is a mature technology, why does it appear to be in reverse?

Sprint Nextel, the first and so far only tier 1 operator to commit to a mobile Wimax rollout, is having second thoughts, according to the Financial Times.

The other promised US deployment, Clearwire, has begun rolling out with Wimax – but has tweaked its arrangement with Intel that could allow it to switch to LTE.

Russian carrier Yota, until recently a poster child for Wimax, has said it is switching to LTE because of the lack of support for Wimax from big device players like Nokia.

Which leaves Wimax pretty well where it’s been for the past five years – as a niche broadband technology in developing markets. It’s telling that those 500 networks between them support just 10 million customers.

One of the few large deployments on the horizon could be the Indian military, which has retained spectrum to rollout a nationwide 4G contract using either Wimax or LTE.

The other payday could be in Australia if the incumbent Labor government loses the national election on Saturday. The opposition parties have promised to scrap the government’s fiber NBN plan in favor of a mostly wireless alternative.

Otherwise, it looks like Wimax has expanded to the max.

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